Today brought the first snowfall to Vienna.
I cannot help but still associate everything around me with my little boys. Even the elements conspire to help revive and refresh my beautiful memories, keeping alive the sense that my boys are still close by, even though physically we are far apart.
Every season inevitably brings its own bitter sweet memories of happy days spent together; the scorching Summers we enjoyed swimming outside, picnics in the park, flying the kite on windy Spring days, feeding the ducks on Autumnal afternoons, riding their bikes and exploring the playgrounds all over town – in every season -dashing wildly for the swings, slides, climbing frames and roundabouts just like any other happy care-free child.
Until they were robbed of their pure children’s innocence, an entitlement that every child should be able to take for granted, Sammy and Benji loved the outdoors. They thrived on adventure.
One particular magical day is imprinted onto my memory forever:
Sammy and Benji’s first experience playing in the snow.
January 2011. They were 20 months old. I will never forget the look on their curious little faces as we put on their snow suits for the very first time. Sammy was sitting playing with a pop-up book on the sofa while I dressed Benji. As I finally managed to maneouvre him into it, struggling to direct wriggling little legs and unruly arms into rightful position and zipped him up into a stiff little bundle, he suddenly stopped moving, stood stock still, arms outstretched stiffly, legs spread apart in wonder. He looked down at himself in his padded suit while Sammy looked on flabbergasted at this remarkable new and inexplicable wardrobe addition. A second later, Benji glanced up to gauge Sammy’s reaction. Sammy started to giggle mischievously. Benji joined in. The two of them then erupted into squeals of hearty laughter and bemusement while Benji started dancing round in circles proudly parading his funny new suit, the object of such hilarity.
It was a delightful double act. The more Benji danced, the more Sammy laughed, by which time he had leapt off the settee, desperate to share the fun, he couldn’t wait to be donned in his matching outfit. He practically jumped into it, all the while looking at Benji for approval, hoping to make him laugh with his own equally funny appearance!
Benji waited patiently for his brother, eyes twinkling, cheeks flushed in eager anticipation. He reached out to him and the two of them waddled towards the door, desperate to try out walking in their cumbersome new coats!
It was comical to watch. I had barely put my own boots on when they had already run to to the lift, rushing to get outside, squealing and hopping about happily at the prospect of the latest adventure! That was before they even saw the snow.
What an exciting experience it was! We went to the nearby park (so close to my apartment it was practically my garden). They were in their element! Every few steps they stopped to bend down and scoop up a handful of snow, touching, testing, relishing every moment of this latest novelty. Each tentative touch triggered renewed squeals of laughter and delight.
We jumped and ran, threw snowballs and made a snowman! They were fascinated by the imprints of their little footsteps in the perfect white carpet. Such simple pleasures yet some of the happiest I have; stored away in my abundant treasury of memories of innocent care-free, joy-filled days, there to share with them one day in the future, a day when they will hopefully long have put all their current pain and suffering behind them.
As the snowflakes fall today, I smile nostalgically, reflecting on that wondrous day exactly 2 years ago. Watching the other children happily playing outside just as mine once did, makes me realise that whatever they can take away from me, nobody has the power to remove my memories of the amazing times we shared. The snow will slowly melt and trickle away but my hopes and dreams for a better future for my boys will materialise, as concrete and lasting as eternal truth.